Do not get into the first car or the last on the off chance there’s a crash.
Snag a seat.
Don’t look at mothers holding babies.
While standing, hold the pole.
Do not stare at fathers who wear their babies in Bjorns, tenderly
patting their backs.
Look at your boots, your phone, your watch, your short nails, and cuticles.
Do not make eye contact.
Stop loving everyone as Whitman did.
Stop thinking of all the men you tried to save.
Don’t list the things every child can do that your daughter will never master.
Don’t imagine back-stories for your fellow passengers that led them to this city.
Or recite Cavafy’s “The City,” even to yourself.
When you eavesdrop, don’t ingratiate yourself to strangers.
Or flash videos of your lover’s cats to the boy next to you to distract him
from his angry father.
Don’t drop anything and if you do, don’t pick it up. Consider it
a donation to the universe.
Don’t look at the blank faces of the passengers who ignore the woman
sleeping under the bench.
Do not think of your college course where you read Nietzsche and had hope.
Never think of college.
Don’t believe ads for quick divorces, on-line degrees, cheap medical care.
Or doctors when they say there’s nothing wrong.
Do not read the news or sing under your breath.
Avoid eye contact.
Hope nothing incites the police.
Forbid yourself to think about the way you felt the last time you were kissed.
Don’t think about what you’re doing.
Mind the gap.
Pretend you can forget about the rats scavenging.
Pretend you can forget.
Jennifer Franklin concentrated in English and Creative Writing at Brown University. She received an MFA from Columbia University School of the Arts where she was a Harvey Baker Fellow. Her poems debuted in the Paris Review’s “Ten New Poets” issue. Her first full-length collection, Looming, won the 14th Annual Editor’s Prize from Elixir Press. Her poetry has appeared widely in anthologies, literary magazines, and journals including Boston Review, Gettysburg Review, Guernica, The Nation, New England Review, Pequod, Plume, “poem-a-day” on poets.org, Poetry Daily, Salmagundi, Southwest Review, Verse Daily, and Western Humanities Review. Her work has been translated into Romanian and Portuguese. A selection of her poetry is featured in Andrew Solomon’s award winning book, Far From the Tree. Franklin is co-editor of Slapering Hol Press, the small press imprint of The Hudson Valley Writers’ Center. She teaches poetry workshops and seminars at The Hudson Valley Writers’ Center and lives in New York City.